Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles resulting in loss of hair. If you watched this year’s Academy Awards, the skin disease is likely top of mind. It’s not uncommon though; more than 200,000 new cases occur each year in the United States alone. Well according to a recent Technology.org article, alopecia may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new use for an old drug.
A professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine conducted a study to determine if baricitinib, a Janus kinase inhibitor used to treat arthritis, could also cure alopecia. He and his colleagues conducted two large, randomized trials with 1,200 people with severe alopecia areata who had lost more than half of the hair on their heads. For 36 weeks, they took a daily dose of either 2mg or 4mg of baricitinib, or a placebo. Miraculously, a third of the patients who received the larger dose grew hair back. Apparently the drug disrupts the communication of immune cells that affect hair follicles. If the drug performs well in Phase 3 clinical trials, the drug could be a candidate for FDA approval to treat alopecia.